Thursday, December 8, 2011

Neighbours? Everybody needs good Neighbors*… or just hire a professional!

When I was at school I used to go home for lunch as I didn’t like to leave my dog all day by her self. My friend used to joke that the dog couldn’t wait for me to go out so that she could have wild parties and invite all her doggy mates round. He was confusing me with the dog! It was me that had the wild parties when my dad was on nights – all evidence removed by the time his shift finished at . Best of all – I could spend the day recovering in bed while he was sleeping and he didn’t know. I don’t know why the neighbours didn’t tell him. (I guess he will know now! Sorry Dad!)
I never had to worry about leaving my pets (or kids for that matter) in the UK. I had my family and friends and neighbours to rely on (in one house we lived in my next door neighbour constituted all three!).
It is always good to have nice neighbours but there are no guarantees. When you move to a new country you have no network of anything trusted, it takes time. We were lucky in North Carolina. From day one our next door neighbours were really lovely people. Interestingly none of our immediate neighbours were American. We were imports from all over the world: china; Ethiopia; India; Britain. A real mish-mash of people and being foreign was something we had in common. I made friends with some neighbors – at the bus stop and community pool. They were good friends who I could call on to help out – for example to collect the kids from the school bus if I was running late or to feed the cats if we were away for the weekend. We also paid a local high school boy to look after the cats on occasion. He was soooo sensible and earnest and trustworthy.
Having recently moved to Texas and not having a school bus or a community pool, I haven’t really met any neighbors. As a result, I find myself having to pay a fortune and employ a professional cat sitter for my upcoming trip to the UK. I say professional – I’m not sure if you need a college degree in America to call yourself Professional – there probably is a Professional Pet Sitting training University. Really! While it costs a fortune to have a cat sitter, I can’t leave them to fend for themselves. They would probably have wild parties and at the very least wee everywhere (although they do that anyway- they are very old). They are too old to go out and catch mice for dinner. Besides – the critters here would probably eat the cats – raccoons, lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!
I was feeling rather down when it was pointed out to me that if I was nicer I would have a great pool of local people, neighbors of the American kind, to rally round and look after the cats while I was away. I mustn’t be too hasty to put on rose-coloured spectacles (metaphorically only, now I have had my eyes lasered and I can see!).  If I am honest, while I sometimes miss having a morning chat at the school bus stop and really miss having the few real friends I made in North Carolina close by, I quite enjoy not knowing anyone here. I tried really hard to make friends and fit in before but it was quickly apparent that culturally I felt very different from the people I met. In my first week in Texas, before my car arrived, I was walking the children to school. Clearly horrified by my heroic attempt to walk, a neighbor stopped and gave us a lift. She kindly invited us round to dinner and later the following week when the removal men arrived she dropped dinner round for us to save us cooking. Truly kind and thoughtful. We met for lunch with another neighbor. There were strong undertones of God and the Church in the conversation. I was invited to a church event that weekend. I politely declined. I said I didn’t know anyone in the UK who went to church. I have never seen them since. This may be because a) I am not very nice or b) because I’m not one of Jesus’ sunbeams. It served as a sharp reminder of the elephant that was always in the room with my American friends in NC. I have decided that it is easier not to try and that $627 for a cat sitter while we are in the UK is a small price to pay for the glorious isolation I find myself in. Sure, I am lonely and very bored and alone – but there is something worse than that – something devastatingly lonely and that is being bored and alone in a room full of ‘neighbors’.

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me…going down the garden to eat worms (and cockroaches and snakes and lizards and scorpions and other Texan critters)  It could be worse; I could still be in North Carolina! I still subscribe to i-neighbors in North Carolina. This is the latest thread from yesterday – entitled ‘SCARY!!!!’ from those lovely neighbors. As usual – I haven’t changed a word (other than names) – I don’t need to! The red bits are me!

Neighbor 1:
HI ALL, HAS ANYONE HAD A BLACK MAN COME TO THE DOOR AND TRY TO GET IN TO CLEAN YOUR CARPET. HE SAID HE WAS FROM XXXXX VACCUME AND I'M PRETTY SURE THEY DON'T GO DOOR TO DOOR. HE WAS TRYING TO GIVE ME A FREE BOTTLE OF CLEANER FOR MY CARPET BUT OF COURSE I NEVER OPEN MY DOOR. HE WAS WITH A YOUNGER BLACK MAN AND THEY WERE DRIVING AN OLD DARK GREEN MINI VAN WITH DARK WINDOWS. PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF ANYONE ELSE HAS SEEN THEM. I COULD NOT SEE THE PLATE #
I did wonder here if ‘carpet’ was some sort of euphemism – although if it was ‘rug’ might have worked better! She typed it in CAPITALS to emphasise just how SCARY!!!!! it was
Neighbor 2
Back in the summer the XXXXX sales people came by my sister's house in Durham and they operated the exact same way you described. Better to be safe than sorry though!
Neighbor 3
He came by our house as well. We didn't let him in. I did see the green van but didn't catch the plate number either.
Neighbor 1Thanks Guys I feel a little bit better knowing it wasn't just me.
If it had have just been her – it might have been because they thought she was a dirty cow with dirty carpet!
Neighbor 4
I believe we need to have some sort of sign at our community entrance gate saying something like 'Sales prohibited'. I told my wife never open the door unless I am home. Thank you for sharing this information.
I wish I had such good advice before I purchased $150 of shite steak from a door-to-door sales man a few weeks ago. Although I would never have followed any instruction from my husband to ‘never’ do something!
Neighbor 5 The voice of reason?! The one that says what the silent majority are thinking? Maybe not! This IS America!
Wow I didn't know black people were that SCARY!!!!! I am pretty sure if two Caucasian males showed up at your door and offered you a free bottle of carpet cleaner you will be just as SCARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Neighbor 1
Do not make this something it's not. If it were two white people I would have said just that. Do not put words in my mouth. It's people like you that keep the race card going. You might want to get all the details before you insinuate a person is
racist. FYI, Slander can be sued for.
The sad thing is – I bet she would win!

Neighbours- everybody needs good neighbours! Thankfully they are now only my ‘virtual’ neighbors. Who needs neighbors like that to look out for you and cat sit?! I’ll stick to the professionals!



*Neighbours is spelt Neighbours unless referring to American neighbours, in which case I have called them neighbors out of ‘respect’ for their native tongue and inability to spell correctly!

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